Congress ‘Fixes’ Airport Delays by Increasing Deficit

When the White House launched their sequestration scare campaign earlier this year, one of the most hyped consequences was its effect on air travel.

Since so many other warnings never were realized, the Obama administration made good on threats last week by ordering 14,750 air traffic controllers on furlough two days a month. As a result, major airports saw flight delays of up to 80 minutes. Granted, some of these effects can be blamed on the weather, but the Beltway’s media message is clear: sequestration is the end of life as we know it.

Spurred into action by angry travelers — and selfishly realizing that they too want to travel this weekend — Congress leapt into action since Something Must Be Done. Did Congress demand that the administration trim Obama’s travel budget instead of inconveniencing the rest of America? Of course not. Instead, they did what comes naturally to them — shoveling more money into the system.

Congress slapped together a bill in record time to quickly transfer funds to the FAA to stop these so-called sequestration delays. The bill came up so quickly that it wasn’t even listed on the legislation-tracking THOMAS site or the floor schedule.

The Democrat-controlled Senate passed the bill unanimously last night and today the House passed it 361-41. The uncommon speed of this lawmaking effort makes it doubtful that legislators had time to read the measure before voting. It is now on the way to the White House for an expected signature.

From what little has been publicized,  the bill appears to increase outlays this year in return for a promise of reductions in later years. Much like Lucy promised Charlie Brown that this time she wouldn’t yank the football.

But even the promised reductions wouldn’t cover the entirety of the bill’s cost. According to the House GOP website, “most, but not all, of that near-term increase would be offset by corresponding reductions in outlays in future years, resulting in net increases in outlays totaling $4 million over the 2013-2018 period and $2 million over the 2013-2023.”

One thing is clear: this “fix” will increase the deficit for 2013 and beyond.

Reacting to the bill, White House Spokesman Jay Carney said, “This is no more than a temporary Band-Aid that fails to address the overarching threat to our economy posed by the sequester’s mindless across the board cuts.” We agree with Carney… to a point.

The problem isn’t mindless cuts, but Washington’s mindless spending. With national debt exceeding $16 trillion, our political leaders can’t manage a miniscule reduction in the rate of future growth without creating transportation gridlock.

Follow Jon on Twitter at @ExJon.